Saturday, October 21, 2017

Martha Ann Barlow's Quilt for Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln
Copy of a photo by Wenderoth and Taylor, 1864
Library of Congress

The New York Times noted a silk quilt displayed at the Soldier's Fair in Washington in the summer of 1866. The two-sided quilt, which had been loaned by Mary Todd Lincoln, widow of the President, was described as:
"A silk bed-quilt, on which much tasteful needlework is displayed. It bears in the centre a blue star in a white field, on which are lesser stars corresponding with the number of States [which] MR. LINCOLN believed to be in the Union after the rebellious attempt to shatter the Government had been defeated. Among these stars is the national eagle, and around it the motto, "E Pluribus Unum". The quilt is bordered with stripes of red and white. On the other side, in splendid embroidery, are represented beautiful flowers, the All-seeing Eye which watches over our country's industry, and an arm-chair representing the Chair of State. This specimen of needlework was a present to MR. LINCOLN from MRS. WILLIAM BARLOW, of Oregon, in 1861."
Martha Ann Partlow Allen Barlow (1822-1902) was a well-known Oregon pioneer. She came west in 1850 with her second husband Dr. William Richardson Allen, who died soon after, leaving her with six children. She married a third time (and a third William) in 1852. She and William Barlow had three more children and thrived in Clackamas County where they founded the city of Barlow.

The Barlows' second mansion, built after the first burned. 
The Barlow House survives near Barlow in western Oregon.
We'd guess Martha is in the photo from the late 19th century.

Martha, a Virginia native, brought two African-American servants with her and built a Southern style mansion, but apparently her heart was with the Union as she named her last child, born in 1859, Cassius Union Barlow.  The Barlows celebrated Lincoln's inauguration with a dinner and ball in March, 1861. The pair were active in the Sanitary Commission during the War.

Senator James W. Nesmith of Oregon
was one of  only two Democrats to vote for the 13th
Amendment to abolish slavery.

In  December 1861 she sent her silk quilt to the President in the hands of the new state's first Senator James W. Nesmith. Apparently the Lincoln family kept it through the War, and after Lincoln's assassination Mary Lincoln loaned it for exhibit at the Washington Fair in the summer of 1866.

In 1899 the bedcover seems to have been back in Martha Barlow's hands.  She exhibited it in the window of  The Dalles Times-Mountaineer newspaper office with the Thank-You letter from Lincoln.

She also showed the Lincoln letter to the editor of the Oregon City Press, which printed the contents.

"Letter Written by the President to Wm. Barlow in 1861. Mrs. Wm Barlow, who was visiting relatives in this city this week, left at the Press office an envelope and letter that was received from President Lincoln in acknowledging a quilt sent by Mrs. Barlow to President Lincoln with Senator J. W. Nesmith, when he went to take up the duties of senator. The letter is as follows:

'Executive Mansion, Washington, December 2, 1861. My Dear Sir: Allow me to tender you my sincere thanks for the kind terms in which you presented in behalf of Mrs. Barlow the beautiful bedspread which I have just received from the hands of Mr. Nesmith. Be kind enough to convey to her my grateful acknowledgements of her goodness and believe me very truly Your obedient servant A. Lincoln.' "
Martha's silk quilt is distinctive enough that we'd recognize it if we came across it. We are looking for a two-sided bedcover, perhaps quilted. On one side: Floral embroidery with the symbol of the All Seeing Eye and an Arm Chair. 

Masonic symbol, the All-Seeing Eye, embroidered on a Masonic apron.

On the other side: Starry field in blue with an eagle and the national motto "E Pluribus Unum" bordered by red and white stripes.

Block in a crazy quilt dated 1884 by Mabel Priest Robbins (1859-1939)
Boxborough, Massachusetts.
Collection of the New England Quilt Museum.
Photo from the Quilt Index.

Typical late-19th-century outline embroidery with
an eagle and the national motto in the ribbon below.
The embroidery on the 1861 quilt would have likely been filled in with thread
rather than outline embroidery as in the eagle above.

Center of the quilt by Elizabeth Keckley
in the collection of Kent State University Museum.
The eagle was done in silver thread, which has tarnished.

There's some confusion with another quilt connected to Mrs. Lincoln. Elizabeth Keckley, her friend and dressmaker, made a quilt with an eagle in the center from the First Lady's dress fabrics. It may also have been sold for charity. But the Barlow quilt is a different quilt.
See the Keckley quilt here:

The first place I looked for the Barlow quilt was in the Quilt Index which has digitized the findings of the Oregon Quilt Project. Surprisingly there is an embroidered and appliqued Oregon quilt with the words "E Pluribus Unum" but this is not it
Quilt with 25 stars by Anna Huber Creitz (1872-ca. 1995).
made in the mid-20th century (although the date is 1831). One wonders
if Portland resident Anna Creitz might have seen the Lincoln quilt.

Finding the Barlow quilt would be nice, to say nothing of finding the letter from Lincoln.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Repro Prints Fall 2017

Cheddar & Friends - Pam Buda

I've been checking out reproduction prints in shops this fall. I found some fabric collections echoing the Civil War era.
Abundant Blessings - Kim Diehl

I was looking for madder red and browns, chintz-scale prints, Turkey reds, double pinks, chrome oranges and yellows, Prussian blues and overdyed greens.

Prairie Basics - Pam Buda

Timeless - Jo Morton

Many of the lines are more suitable for end-of-the-19th century reproduction quilts.
Greenish browns rather than reddish-browns.

American Swatch Book -Judie Rothermel

It's a good time to build that "Circa 1900" stash: wine-colored reds, pinks, navy blues, 
cadet blues (gray-blues), grays and blacks.

Nineteenth-Century School Dresses - Judie Rothermel

Kindred Spirits Sisters - Jill Shaulis

And shirtings on white grounds or tan

Prairie Shirtings - Pam Buda

Sycamore -Jan Patek

Crystal Farm - Edyta Sitar

It's not a great season to build that Civil War stash. My motto is "Buy 'Em When You See 'Em." At least a half a yard. Don't dither when you see good brights like Turkey red and greens. Those prints and colors are offered in limited fashion because they cater to a limited customer base:


We'll see what fall Quilt Market brings in the way of early-19th to mid-19th century repros.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Nurse in Uniform: What War?

Nurse Amelia Mazzara (1831 - 1897)
Collection of the California Historical Society

Photos of Civil War nurses are rare. Nurse Mazzara's picture was published in the California Historical Society Quarterly with a caption dating it to about 1862. She seems to be wearing a uniform. The bodice has triple rows of soutache or braid on the collar, cuffs and running down the the front. She has an arm band like one we'd see today on a Red Cross nurse. Her white, almost floor-length apron is pinned onto the bodice and perhaps buttoned at the waist. She may be wearing a cap that doesn't show in the photo.

See the article with the photo here:

But, I'm becoming suspicious that it's not an 1862 photograph and she is not wearing a Civil War nurse outfit.

The caption says it is a Bradley & Rulofson photo. These San Francisco photographers did not travel to any battle fronts so the photo was probably taken in their studio after their partnership began in 1861. Amelia's husband, sculptor Pietro Mezzara worked on the premises of the Bradley & Rulofson Studio in the 1860s and '70s.

Amelia Mezzara was indeed a Civil War nurse but one wonders why a Civil War nurse was photographed in San Francisco, so far from any battlefields. Amelia Victorien Foulon du Groudre Mezzara was born in France. Husband Pietro, inspired by the Gold Rush, came to California in 1850. He found some success as a sculptor, particularly in cutting life-like cameos.

Pietro Mezzara's bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln,
1865, melted in the great San Francisco fire of 1906.

At the end of the century a San Francisco newspaper article explained Amelia's service as a nurse with the Union Army. She was in New York in 1861 hoping to join her husband in California but had to wait three months for a sailing date. Believing (like many optimists) that the Civil War would last three months she volunteered to join Dorothy Dix's corps of nurses and went South with Hooker's Division. "Mme. Mezzara remained faithfully at her post until Richmond came down."

Amelia finally made it to California after the war. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870 she bravely traveled to France to use her nursing skills in her native country.

Railroad cars as hospitals in the Franco-Prussian War

She received a medal in France and another from French women back in San Francisco.

Mezzara sculpture on the state capitol in Sacramento

Pietro Mezzara returned to Europe about the same time Amelia sailed and never came back to the U.S. After the war was over in 1871 Amelia supported herself by teaching French in San Francisco.

Newspaper portrait from the 1890s.

In 1896 she was awarded a Union Nurse's Pension after becoming disabled in a fall from a streetcar. At the time an article in the San Francisco Call included an interview:
" 'I do not care to see myself written up as anything of a heroine,' said the gentlewoman yesterday. 'The world has many women who did as much and more than I have accomplished among the wounded soldiers, and their names have never been mentioned in the newspapers. The work of nursing was hard always, as nurses in the hospitals fared like the troops, but I have ever received the utmost kindness and courtesy from foes as well as friends. The graceful commendation of the two great republics and those who honored me with their approving testimonials, is recompense far above my deserts.' "
She died the following year of "paralysis of the brain," probably a stroke.
After reading Amelia's story and trying to figure out when the photo was taken, I believe that uniform with a red cross arm band is her French uniform from the Franco-Prussian war.

Detail of a field hospital during the French-German War of 
1870-1871. See the rest of the photo in the collection of the
Oregon Health & Science University Library here:

The red cross as an identifier was developed in 1863 when international signers to the Geneva Convention agreed that medical personnel should easily be distinguished by a simple badge. The red cross on the white background was a reverse of the Swiss flag, a nation that prided itself on its neutrality.

Is that a red cross on the nurse's apron in
this Swiss hospital?

During our Civil War field hospitals were identified with a yellow and green H.
See a post on the flags with the H here:

There's really no evidence I've seen that Amelia's photo was taken in 1863.

P.S. Many captions will tell you this photo is of Civil War nurses in outlandish caps. Not true. They are women dressed in regional French headgear at New York's Sanitary Fair.

I found this photo floating around the internet.
Hospital No 9. Summer '63' "

I don't think there were any uniforms as such for nurses during the Civil War other than a discreet dark dress and a pinned apron.

UPDATE: See Harriet Douglas Whetten's photo at the Wisconsin Historical Society here:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All Block Twos

Yankee Diary
Block 2: Susan B.'s Star 
by Denniele Bohannon

What if you made a dozen of block 2 
and alternated dark and light shading?

Here are your blocks and a couple of dark
Photoshopped block 2s. They are 18" so the virtual quilt would be 54" x 72".

66" x 84" with a 6" border.
Well, it would keep you busy
and you'd wind up with a patriotic extravaganza.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picture Rocks Ladies' Aid Society

Winslow Homer's drawing of a Ladies' Aid Society in Harper's Weekly, 1862

During the Civil War women all over the Union formed Ladies' Aid Societies that were branches of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The women of Picture Rocks, Pennsylvania, left a record of their activities in Lycoming County.

Picture Rocks in the Muncy Valley is named for some long-gone
Native American pictographs in the hills

The women were tentative about organizing and doubtful as to the good they were able to do.

1864 Letter to the Secretary of the Woman’s Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission:
“ I am happy to inform you that, at length, after two or three failures from stormy weather, we have a ‘ Soldiers' Aid Society’ at Picture Rocks. There seems quite a general desire to engage in so noble a work, although, with a few, I have found a feeling of distrust as to the good the ‘Sanitary' is doing, and the necessity of its work. More light is needed on the subject. I do not expect that our contributions will be anyways large, for, with few exceptions, our people number their wealth by hundreds instead of thousands. But we can be one of the little rills that, drop by drop, make the vast ocean.

A portion of the 1864 minutes were published in the 1873 Lycoming County Atlas.
"Voted to meet Thursday afternoons, and to each bring material for quilts, etc., until we could gain sufficient funds to purchase flannel. " [We conducted]  a few fundraising activities to buy flannel for the quilts and calico to make hospital wrappers." 
March 17, at house of Mrs. J. B. Drake...Voted to bring together contributions ready for a box. Put together blocks that members had pieced and quilted. 
 At meeting, April 10, we packed in barrels the following articles: Dried fruits..., eight pairs of socks, one quilt, six shirts, one pair of drawers, one undershirt, two sheets, two dozen of pocket handkerchiefs,... etc.

The flannel was perhaps cotton flannel. The quilt could be pieced of household scraps but they may have used brushed cotton yardage for the backing or filling. The women in the town of a few hundred people finished one quilt for one soldier in a hospital in 1864. One welcome quilt, we'd guess from an account in Kentucky at this post:

Below is the full account of the society from the Atlas.

The fact has been painfully realized that our history would be incomplete without some account of the doings of the women of Lycoming during the War of the Rebellion. A strong effort was made to secure full data of the Ladies' Aid Societies throughout the County, but only in part have these efforts been attended with success. Through the kindness of one of the active workers, in the lower part of the County, a report has been received for that section, which is published in full.


In the summer of 1861, many of the loyal sons of the Muncy Valley responded to their country’s call. The daughters of the valley could not do battle for their country's honor and life, but they could speak words of encouragement and cheer, and they could see that every soldier in the ranks was equipped with all the comforts that busy fingers and loving hearts could devise. And from the time the first company “ took up its line of march," they were watchful and alert to anticipate the needs of those who were risking their lives in their country's service. Many barrels and boxes, filled with dried fruits, jars of apple-butter and pickles, socks and mittens, reading-matter,——in fact, everything that motherly love could suggest, were sent forward from time to time, reaching them in good condition when in winter-quarters, at other times lost by the way, from a sudden removal of camp. This was discouraging, and convinced us of the necessity of united, systematic effort, before we could be really helpful to the sick and wounded.

But we were so few in number. Was it really worth while for us to organize? Not until March, 1864, in response to an earnest appeal for help from the W. B. S. C. of Philadelphia, did we effect an organization at Picture Rocks. Our first meeting convened March 10, at the home of Mrs. Eben Sprout. Present, Mrs. A. Burrows, Mrs. J. B. Drake, Mrs. J. Little, Mrs. E. T. Sprout, Mrs. L. B. Sprout, Mrs. A. R. Sprout, Miss Rosa Little, Miss Martha Little, Miss Jane Whipple. The following oficers were elected: Mrs. Ellis Bryan, President; Mrs. Jesse Blaker and Miss Ann Rymarson, Vice-Presidents; Mrs. A. R. Sprout, Secretary and Treasurer. Appointed committee to solicit funds, Misses Mary Bryan, Rosa Little, and Jane Whipple. Voted to meet Thursday afternoons, and to each bring material for quilts, etc., until we could gain sufficient funds to purchase flannel. From a rough draft in the Secretary’s book, I copy the following letter:


“ I am happy to inform you that, at length, after two or three failures from. stormy weather, we have a ‘ Soldiers' Aid Society’ at Picture Rocks. There seems quite a general desire to engage in so noble a work, although, with a few, I have found a feeling of distrust as to the good the ‘Sanitary' is doing, and the necessity of its work. More light is needed on the subject. I do not expect that our contributions will be anyways large, for, with few exceptions, our people number their wealth by hundreds instead of thousands. But we can be one of the little rills that, drop by drop, make the vast ocean.”

Next meeting, March 17, at house of Mrs. J. B. Drake. Present, Mrs. A. Burrows, Mrs. Eben Sprout, E. T. Sprout, A. R. Sprout, Miss Ann Rynearson, Mary Rogers, Jane Whipple, Rosa Little, Martha Little, Minerva Little, Martha Krause, Jane Saunders. Heard reports of Soliciting Committee. Appointed Jane Saunders on committee, in place of R. Little, resigned. Instructed the, committee to continue their labors for another week. Voted to bring together contributions ready for a box. Put together blocks that members had pieced and quilted.

At meeting, April 10, we packed in barrels the following articles: Dried fruits, eleven pounds of huckleberries, nine pounds of cherries, six and one-half pounds of blackberries, three pounds of raspberries, one pound of currants, five pounds of ‘ apples, eight pairs of socks, one quilt, six shirts, one pair of drawers, one undershirt, two sheets, two dozen of pocket handkerchiefs, four towels, one linen coat, two pillows, two bags of hops, several bundles of old linen, cotton, and lawn, etc. includes minutes of the meetings, accounts of a few fundraising activities to buy flannel for the quilts and calico to make hospital wrappers."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Northern Lily & Southern Rose

Got these photos recently of some beautiful hand quilting
by Candice Greco, a friend of a friend.

The pattern for her quilt is from my book Quilts From the Civil War

"Northern Lily & Southern Rose."

Northern Lily & Southern Rose by Terry Clothier Thompson. 
Pp 70-79

Terry and I certainly had fun working on that book, the first thing we wrote on quilts and the Civil War. We looked at a lot of vintage quilts and read first-person-accounts from the era. Terry updated several designs with her own flair.

Our inspiration:
When the Kansas Troubles inspired partisans to move to the Kansas Territory in 1855 as antislavery or proslavery advocates, Lucy Larcom won a contest with a poem to inspire western migration and UNION.
"Sisters true, Join us too
Where the Kansas flows
Let the Northern Lily bloom
With the Southern Rose."

It's one of the nine projects with full instructions in the book. I still have a lot of these books---I'm so glad I bought a bunch. You can buy one here:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Two Antislavery Quilts

Signature Quilt with an antislavery message, about 1848,
in the collection of the Royall House.
From the Massachusetts Project & the Quilt Index.

The Royall House & Slave Quarters is a Massachusetts museum with restored colonial era buildings including the only surviving slave quarters in the northern states (I'm always doubtful about words like "only" and "first".) 

Isaac Royall was a Maine merchant with plantations in the West Indies (the Caribbean) who built a mansion in what is now Medford, Massachusetts, in the mid-18th century, described as "one of the grandest in North America.” 

The two-story brick dormitory for slaves who were
brought from the Caribbean.

At least 27 enslaved people worked on the estate. After his father's death Isaac II, a British loyalist, abandoned the colonies and the home when the Revolutionary war began. The slaves became free people by default.

The museum is open to visitors in the summer.

Isaac Royal II and his wife Elizabeth Mackintosh Royall (in blue)

Like many historic houses the museum has a rather random collection of old quilts that have been donated over the past century. Small museums rarely kept detailed acquisition notes and a collecting focus was unusual until recent decades. Whether any of the quilts have a connection to anyone who lived in the house is unknown.

The notes in the Quilt Index indicate this 
quilt has an antislavery message.

But at least two quilts have a connection to the mid-19th-century's antislavery movement, indicating someone saw a focus in the connection to the house's history as a large slave-holding estate.

Mid-19th-century silk quilt. 
Notes in the Quilt Index indicate a poem in
the center.

In the corners a detail photo reveals a printed silk:
"Plead for the Slave."

See the records for the antislavery quilts here:

You can view all the quilts in a museum collection if they are in the Quilt Index by searching by museum name. Here's a link to the quilts recorded at the Royall House.